By Marta Cyperling
Posted April 14, 2008
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New research at the University of Calgary allows doctors to visualize the amount and location of heart muscle recovered after treatment of a heart attack. If patients with acute heart attacks come into the hospital early enough, heart muscle can be salvaged by interventions such as a balloon angioplasty or the implanting of a stent. The later treatment is initiated, the less likely heart muscle can be rescued. The new technique now allows doctors to see how much of the heart can be saved.
"Until now, there has been no way to directly see how much of the heart muscle was rescued by the intervention," says Dr. Matthias Friedrich, associate professor of Medicine in the Departments of Cardiac Sciences and Radiology at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine, and director, Stephenson Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Centre at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, who led the study.
"Even more importantly," he adds, "this lays the groundwork for working on even better strategies for identifying patients who need interventional treatment, and for the development of new ways of optimizing acute interventions in infarcts."
The Calgary-led research, to be published in the April 22nd issue in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), is the first clinical trial of its kind. The new technique simply uses the distinct magnetic properties of water in the tissue to visualize the swelling of the affected area in the sick heart. This is possible with the use of Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This is one of the least invasive methods, as other techniques require radiation or radioactive dyes.
The Cardiac MRI technique could also help in identifying patients at risk for heart attacks in the future. As Dr. Oliver Strohm, deputy director of the centre, pointed out, "This is the ideal tool to identify patients with an evolving heart attack in the emergency room, hours before it becomes apparent by lab tests."
This strategy is currently being implemented at the Foothills Medical Centre.
"The development of a world-class program in heart imaging with magnetic resonance was a priority of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta," says Dr. L. Brent Mitchell, director, Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta. "It has been a remarkably successful initiative."
Opening its doors in March 2005, the Stephenson CMR Centre has quickly become the leading cardiovascular magnetic resonance facility in Canada, and is currently one of the top five globally as measured by number of patient studies. According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information, Calgary has the highest heart attack survival rates in the nation.
About the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary
The U of C's Faculty of Medicine is a national leader in health research with an international reputation for excellence and innovation in health care research, education and delivery. Through its educational programs, the Faculty of Medicine trains the physicians and scientists who will lead the next generation of health practitioners. Through its clinical work, continuing medical education programs, and close relationship with the Calgary Health Region, the Faculty of Medicine moves new treatments and diagnostic techniques from the laboratory bench to the hospital bedside efficiently and effectively, improving patient care.
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